After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.
Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.
"I saw smoke," he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. "Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it."
Foster couldn't move and couldn't hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.
U.S. Marines man an M2 Browning .50-cal machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps)
His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn't believe them.
"Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them." He lost consciousness shortly after.
What kind of BMG round went through Foster's body isn't clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.
Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.
"I say I don't have a butt to sit on now, and I really don't," Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. "The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn't have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm."
Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.
"The doctors said they didn't know if they could save me," he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. "They didn't know how to put me back together because they'd never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked."